The Cardinals Major League Notebook

While the Cardinals waited for left-handed reliever Brian Fuentes to decide whether he wants to sign with the Los Angeles Angels or St. Louis, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said he would not allow the chase of Fuentes to "create a paralysis" within the club's bid for pitching help.

The Cardinals extended a two-year bid believed to be worth between $16 million and $18 million for Fuentes, who had voiced a preference to pitch for the Angels, a franchise much nearer his hometown of Merced, Calif. But Fuentes' decision was frozen, in part, because of the Angels' hot pursuit of free agent first baseman Mark Teixeira.

"From my end it's been a slow-moving process. It's a little bit frustrating," said Mozeliak, who was said to be reluctant to guarantee a third year to Fuentes. "The ball's in their court. We've worked on it. It's not that we don't want to negotiate anymore. But we're waiting for them."

Meanwhile, the Cardinals were said to be ready to investigate the availability of former Dodgers closer Takashi Saito. The Dodgers failed to offer Saito a contract, making the former NL All-Star a free agent. Saito was 12-7 with 81 saves and a 1.95 ERA in three seasons for Los Angeles but experienced elbow problems late in the 2008 season.

The 39-year-old Saito might be a stopgap as closer until either Chris Perez or Jason Motte is ready to assume the role.

The Cardinals also might explore a couple of pitchers who worked in Japan last year, Kenshin Kawakami and Koji Oehara, both of whom have won the Japanese equivalent of the Cy Young Award.

"It's something we have interest in as an organization," Mozeliak said of the Japanese options. "We believe we're on much better footing now."


--The Cardinals caused a minor stir when, for the second year in succession, they didn't offer a contract to INF Aaron Miles, who hit .317 as a valuable extra man last season. Miles made $1.4 million in 2008 and would have been eligible for arbitration.

--In less of a surprise, the club did not offer arbitration to LHPs Randy Flores and Tyler Johnson. Flores had a poor 2008, and Johnson didn't pitch at all after having elbow surgery. Both of them also were arbitration-eligible.

--The Cardinals signed minor league free agents INF Joe Thurston and C Justin Knoedler. Thurston, 29, has had 66 at-bats in 59 major league games spread over five seasons. He spent most of last season at Class AAA Pawtucket in the Boston organization and was recommended by Cardinals third base coach Jose Oquendo and former Cardinal Eduardo Perez, who scouted Thurston in the Puerto Rican Winter League.

--Oquendo, who is managing this winter in Puerto Rico, will be back for his second tour as manager of the Puerto Rican team in the World Baseball Classic. The Puerto Ricans reached the quarterfinals in 2006.

--1B Albert Pujols is the only Cardinal confirmed so far as saying he will play in the World Baseball Classic. Pujols will play for the Dominican Republic.

BY THE NUMBERS: 4 -- Errors committed by INF Aaron Miles in 2008 while playing seven positions, including pitcher.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're tying to gain flexibility. It's hard to handicap it. A lot depends on how he finds the market." -- GM John Mozeliak on INF Aaron Miles, who was allowed to become a free agent when the Cardinals didn't tender him a contract.

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